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Why Expansion has failed


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First off this is not a thread about the French clubs, they are French Heartlands clubs so in no way expansion which is about Rugby League growing in a non-Rugby League area.

Secondly this is not about London Broncos, there are enough threads on them and they are, as a club, firmly in my rear view mirror.

1     It takes time to put down roots

Taking about the NFL international series Mike Fisher the beat writer for the Dallas Cowboys on Sports Illustrated said that the NFL in Europe was now reaping the benefits of a process that began 40 years ago and he is right, Channel 4 first broadcast the sport as a week delayed highlights show in 1982, I attended the first privatly organised NFL game between Minnisota Vikings and the St Louis Cardinals in 1983. There was a fallow period between 1997 to 2007 but since then with the playing of regaular season games outside the USA the game has grown and developed to the point whereby on Wednesday the dates will be announced for the five international series gamnes (3 in the Uk, 1 in Germany and 1 in Mexico) all of which will sell out. And this is without UK media coverage

Compare this with how rugby league has behaved. Stick a club in some outpost of the UK where the game is not established. and just wait for the Field of Dreams approach to Rugby League to work for "if you build it surely they will come" to watch an alien game against northern towns you have to look up on a map. Expansion clubs are simply outpost clubs. To quote a TRL Journalist "a pin on map" which exists as long as its sugar daddy funds it or rebrands like Coventry Bears becoming Midland Hurricanes - Does that make a jot of difference to the clubs fortunes ?

Or you have the Hamburger Hill* approach, Lets take the 2013 World Cup as an example, you get 7, 247 in Bristol for Cook Islands v USA - Do you go back there to exploit this - of course not. Take Magic Weekend, first in Wales then Scotland then Wales then Manchester then Newcastle then Liverpool then Back to Newcastle. Locations picked to expand the game or locations picked for the nightlife for fans to consume copious pints at the Bigg Market ?.

How much cut-through does Rugby League get in its outpost areas, fans tend to divide into two groups, exiled Northerners as the first group who do not all excklusively choose to follow the "local" outpost club or a much smaller group of converts which are an ecletic mix of locals, transient Aussies and Kiwis doing the OE (Overseas experience) or Brits lke me who are regular visitors to Australia and New Zealand where it is a major sport.

Are the outpost clubs really bringing a new audience or simply recycling a audience already exposed to the game. If it is the latter then why so ?

For those who were not film bufs hamburger hill was a film about how the US 101st Airborne Division took a hill on the viertnames / Laotian border at great cost and then pulled out

2    When you choose to play

Rugby League changed its season to summer partially because of the belief that summer rugby would grow the game, partly because it would allow for a world club championship which lasted one year. It also means the game competes for oxygen with a Soccer calendar that resembles the Hundred Years War with biennial European Nations and World Cup tourtnaments and an ever encroaching regular season, Cricket, Tennis, Golf, the Commonewalth Games, the Olympic Games and of course the Childrens Easter and Summer Holidays.

Now if your are in an outpost area, you will like me have grown up with different sports other than rugby league. You may have an interest in and watch Rugby League, but the sports you grew up with remain part of your interests. Most posters on this forum avidly follow Soccer for their sins. I am more than just your average Cricket fan, a follower of the NFL and Gridiron football generally and Rugby Union which is also followed by some on here who keep quiet about it. So in many ways, I am actually not your target audience, it's the generation that follows me who may have a quite different "pecking order" than dad's. Going back to point 1 expansion of a sport is generational not a quick fix.

But how can you survive in a crowded market, a couple of years ago I pointed out that when SKY was advertising on the London Underground and elsewhere its "properties" for SKY summer one sport was conspicious by its absence - Rugby League. Not a big draw outside the M62 for SKY at least.

Why are events such as the Six Nations (February-March) and the NFL International Series (late September - October) successful . it's because they have no competition at that time with only domertic leagues in other sports competing.

And of course, 2022 is not 1995- We do not play rugby at grounds like Watersheddings, we have hybrid pirches so the mudbaths of old are no longer commonplace at the top level. It's vastly different, so with a game that already runs from late January to mid-November. what would be the issue with a game runnig from September to mid-June. Soccer and Rugby Union fans can turn out in winter, fans in Green Bay, Buffalo and Chicago endure far harsher conditions than on the M62, so why not give the game of Rugby League greater national prominence at a time it will face less competition and help expand the game.

3    The Tyranny of Distance (with apologies to geoffrey blainey)

When you are an outpost club you are very concsious of just how far you are from the "heartlands". Let me give you and example, If I wanted to watch my premiership Rugby Union club away from home there are nine Premiership clubs that I could do in a day. Most of whom play 3.00pm on Saturday. Not only are the Super League clubs further away, but most of them play on Thursday Night for SKY or Friday night by choice with very few games such as the one I saw at Warrington  on 23rd April played at a time when I could reasonably get there and back. Sundays are often blighteed by engineering works. THios equally applies to heartland clubs on the fringe as much as outsiders.

Looking back on reflection the first two Rugby League Games I saw were at Fulham in 1983 when I was into Harry Bassett's Wimbledon FC and their metioric rise friom the fourth to first division with an FA cup to boot (given current circumstances i do get the irony). I think what really put me off the sport at the time was the distance involved in watching your club against its "rivals" wheras it was a lot easier to watch Wimbledon and you could banter at work. It took Australia and the Super League before I was switched on to Rugby League.

Another pop at outpost clubs is you do not bring a coachload of thirsty fans to the Black Bull for a pre-match drinking session and subsequent cllcking of the turnstiles. The lack of away fans being mentioned by Derek Beaumont in the French context. I like Derek Beaumont he is refreshingly honest and sayts in public what others say in private. But it also underscores M62 attitudes. 

4    M62 attitudes

Expansion is something that divides opinion in the M62 and I call it M62 attitudes because Rugby League is not actually a northern game as you do not have to go far in what to a southerner would be classified as "the North"  to enter a Rugby League free zone (Blackburn 2002 being one such example). Now I have had a father and son combination from Featherstone (the a typical capper club) lament the failure of Rugby League in the capital I have this from Warrington, Hull, St Helens fans, and Wiganers who have told me that prejudice against anyone outside the M62 was in reality a form of racism

On the other hand there was a cartoon strip in the old TGG called the flat cappers where fans of "Scutterton Scorpions" encounter fans screaming "Landan.. Lndan" and reply "furriners"  I knolw the feeling I have been told to my face that people like me should stick to Rugby Union and a hilarious conversation between Salford fans on a bus back from the disaster which was the 2013 Challenge Cup Semi-Final which changed from how much money The RFL paid to get London in the semi to lamenting London's misfortune once another London fan got on. I have had more stick for being a southerner watching league in the north tha for being a brit in Australia.. Think about that

I have also had an RFL staffer absolutely gobsmacked outside the Halton Stadium before the Championship Play off final that anyone should come from Kent to watch that game or read the likes of Gary Hetherington express amazement that someone from Cornwall would buy Leeds Rinos merchandise. If they are not confident that the game may have an appeal outsidee its M62 confines what hope is there ?

5    The missed opportunity

1996 really was a mised opportunity and an oportunity that may not come again, with Soccer yet to peak, Cricket in the doldrums, Union still an amateur sport in nature there was an opportunity. I was there on the balmy evening in 1996 when London Broncos tooki on Wigan in front of 10,000 fans at The Valley. The future then looked bright for the game. The future now resembles an arctic night for the game or at least the growth of it.

I am emotinally committed to Promotion and Relegation but I am of the view that this now needs to be on basis of satisfying criteria. Rugby League never seems to learn either you have clubs promoted on the basis of being owned by a sugar daddy but with foundations in quicksand (I.e. Celtic Crusaders, Toronto) who collapse once the owner is financially challenged or you have a "Scutterton" a small town M62 club replacing another small town M62 club fishiong in the same pool as the other M62 clubs until the money runs out. And so the cycle continues...

Compare that with the Premiership Rugby attitude - Having had a number of failures London Welsh being the latest, The real reason Ealing Trailfinders were excluded from the Premiership because you would have had 4 clubs clustered within 12 miles of each other, that it's a club financed by Mike Gooley, the epitome of a Sugar Daddy, and has a average crowd of less than 1,000. As with any job interview, If I do not want you to have the job, I will find criteria to fail you. The same with PRL. If Doncaster or Cornish Pirates had won the championship they would have gone up. In future promotion to the big league will be on the basis of sound finances and geographical expansion, in having an area all to yourself.

Someone at LPL should write a book on the faiure of expansion call it "the reluctant expansionist"

Its a TV sport now for me predominately the NRL and select Super League games and I will go up north to a game when the fixture list permits but I am off now having spent long enough getting this off my chest so to speak.

 

 

 

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I suppose a lot of it boils down to what we as individuals see as expansion. People do apply quite strict criteria to this. 

For me, we are talking participation expanding its geographical footprint. And that participation includes players, coaches and supporters. 

I suppose the question to be asked is is our footprint wider than 10 years ago? Or 20 years ago, or 50 years ago? 

My view is the answer is no in the UK. I think we look relatively the same as we did 20 or 30 years ago. We have always had seemingly random teams pop up here and there, and that is still what we have with Cornwall, West Wales etc. 

Is RL played in schools, colleges and universities all over the country, or still relatively confined? 

I think we have a lot of work to do and it should be focused on grassroots, community game and the education bodies. Top down should come on the back of this development. 

But we should also remember that new expansion teams in virgin territory is a really rare thing in this country. It isn't easy to just set up a club in a new area and have them do well, I can't think of too many good examples. And the major sports don't really need to even try to do it, they have nailed the foundations. 

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The trouble with a discussion like this is it's like going back to a restaurant you used to love, the menu seems exactly what you expected, the wine list appears much the same, the decor hasn't changed in the slightest and the management has managed to age with you and the port. But it's just not the same any more.

When you get home you realise it wasn't the place, it was you that went missing, because you're just not the same any more.

Examples from other sports who are as rich as Croesus, or who have a huge amount of support from the press and the system generally are hardly likely to produce useable models, criteria, systems or processes that can translate into a sport lacking either.

The debate about virgin areas or traditional regions is a bit of a cul de sac really. Traditional places are not expansion and completely new locations are a level of need and ambition that the sport is incapable of realising.

Generally modern sport throughout Europe lives far outside any kind of finacially sensible boundaries, as the evidence of Football illustrates only too well. Though the silly debate and interference in the sport around the proposed European League echoed all the symptom of RL's heritage versus adventure debates.

There is of course the argument that if only we'd stuck with it and seen it to completion. This is perhaps the most telling point. We have not seen one expansion that recieved the level and consistency of support and commitment that's needed. The reasons for this are obvious either we just can't afford or just don't want it enough or both.

There is of course the Big City theme put forward as the answer to all this but not only is this riddled with the same kinds of problems, it's put forward by people who wouldn't be affected by the changes and the lack of due diligence of this idea is ridiculous.

 

 

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51 minutes ago, THE RED ROOSTER said:

First off this is not a thread about the French clubs, they are French Heartlands clubs so in no way expansion which is about Rugby League growing in a non-Rugby League area.

Secondly this is not about London Broncos, there are enough threads on them and they are, as a club, firmly in my rear view mirror.

1     It takes time to put down roots

Taking about the NFL international series Mike Fisher the beat writer for the Dallas Cowboys on Sports Illustrated said that the NFL in Europe was now reaping the benefits of a process that began 40 years ago and he is right, Channel 4 first broadcast the sport as a week delayed highlights show in 1982, I attended the first privatly organised NFL game between Minnisota Vikings and the St Louis Cardinals in 1983. There was a fallow period between 1997 to 2007 but since then with the playing of regaular season games outside the USA the game has grown and developed to the point whereby on Wednesday the dates will be announced for the five international series gamnes (3 in the Uk, 1 in Germany and 1 in Mexico) all of which will sell out. And this is without UK media coverage

Compare this with how rugby league has behaved. Stick a club in some outpost of the UK where the game is not established. and just wait for the Field of Dreams approach to Rugby League to work for "if you build it surely they will come" to watch an alien game against northern towns you have to look up on a map. Expansion clubs are simply outpost clubs. To quote a TRL Journalist "a pin on map" which exists as long as its sugar daddy funds it or rebrands like Coventry Bears becoming Midland Hurricanes - Does that make a jot of difference to the clubs fortunes ?

Or you have the Hamburger Hill* approach, Lets take the 2013 World Cup as an example, you get 7, 247 in Bristol for Cook Islands v USA - Do you go back there to exploit this - of course not. Take Magic Weekend, first in Wales then Scotland then Wales then Manchester then Newcastle then Liverpool then Back to Newcastle. Locations picked to expand the game or locations picked for the nightlife for fans to consume copious pints at the Bigg Market ?.

How much cut-through does Rugby League get in its outpost areas, fans tend to divide into two groups, exiled Northerners as the first group who do not all excklusively choose to follow the "local" outpost club or a much smaller group of converts which are an ecletic mix of locals, transient Aussies and Kiwis doing the OE (Overseas experience) or Brits lke me who are regular visitors to Australia and New Zealand where it is a major sport.

Are the outpost clubs really bringing a new audience or simply recycling a audience already exposed to the game. If it is the latter then why so ?

For those who were not film bufs hamburger hill was a film about how the US 101st Airborne Division took a hill on the viertnames / Laotian border at great cost and then pulled out

2    When you choose to play

Rugby League changed its season to summer partially because of the belief that summer rugby would grow the game, partly because it would allow for a world club championship which lasted one year. It also means the game competes for oxygen with a Soccer calendar that resembles the Hundred Years War with biennial European Nations and World Cup tourtnaments and an ever encroaching regular season, Cricket, Tennis, Golf, the Commonewalth Games, the Olympic Games and of course the Childrens Easter and Summer Holidays.

Now if your are in an outpost area, you will like me have grown up with different sports other than rugby league. You may have an interest in and watch Rugby League, but the sports you grew up with remain part of your interests. Most posters on this forum avidly follow Soccer for their sins. I am more than just your average Cricket fan, a follower of the NFL and Gridiron football generally and Rugby Union which is also followed by some on here who keep quiet about it. So in many ways, I am actually not your target audience, it's the generation that follows me who may have a quite different "pecking order" than dad's. Going back to point 1 expansion of a sport is generational not a quick fix.

But how can you survive in a crowded market, a couple of years ago I pointed out that when SKY was advertising on the London Underground and elsewhere its "properties" for SKY summer one sport was conspicious by its absence - Rugby League. Not a big draw outside the M62 for SKY at least.

Why are events such as the Six Nations (February-March) and the NFL International Series (late September - October) successful . it's because they have no competition at that time with only domertic leagues in other sports competing.

And of course, 2022 is not 1995- We do not play rugby at grounds like Watersheddings, we have hybrid pirches so the mudbaths of old are no longer commonplace at the top level. It's vastly different, so with a game that already runs from late January to mid-November. what would be the issue with a game runnig from September to mid-June. Soccer and Rugby Union fans can turn out in winter, fans in Green Bay, Buffalo and Chicago endure far harsher conditions than on the M62, so why not give the game of Rugby League greater national prominence at a time it will face less competition and help expand the game.

3    The Tyranny of Distance (with apologies to geoffrey blainey)

When you are an outpost club you are very concsious of just how far you are from the "heartlands". Let me give you and example, If I wanted to watch my premiership Rugby Union club away from home there are nine Premiership clubs that I could do in a day. Most of whom play 3.00pm on Saturday. Not only are the Super League clubs further away, but most of them play on Thursday Night for SKY or Friday night by choice with very few games such as the one I saw at Warrington  on 23rd April played at a time when I could reasonably get there and back. Sundays are often blighteed by engineering works. THios equally applies to heartland clubs on the fringe as much as outsiders.

Looking back on reflection the first two Rugby League Games I saw were at Fulham in 1983 when I was into Harry Bassett's Wimbledon FC and their metioric rise friom the fourth to first division with an FA cup to boot (given current circumstances i do get the irony). I think what really put me off the sport at the time was the distance involved in watching your club against its "rivals" wheras it was a lot easier to watch Wimbledon and you could banter at work. It took Australia and the Super League before I was switched on to Rugby League.

Another pop at outpost clubs is you do not bring a coachload of thirsty fans to the Black Bull for a pre-match drinking session and subsequent cllcking of the turnstiles. The lack of away fans being mentioned by Derek Beaumont in the French context. I like Derek Beaumont he is refreshingly honest and sayts in public what others say in private. But it also underscores M62 attitudes. 

4    M62 attitudes

Expansion is something that divides opinion in the M62 and I call it M62 attitudes because Rugby League is not actually a northern game as you do not have to go far in what to a southerner would be classified as "the North"  to enter a Rugby League free zone (Blackburn 2002 being one such example). Now I have had a father and son combination from Featherstone (the a typical capper club) lament the failure of Rugby League in the capital I have this from Warrington, Hull, St Helens fans, and Wiganers who have told me that prejudice against anyone outside the M62 was in reality a form of racism

On the other hand there was a cartoon strip in the old TGG called the flat cappers where fans of "Scutterton Scorpions" encounter fans screaming "Landan.. Lndan" and reply "furriners"  I knolw the feeling I have been told to my face that people like me should stick to Rugby Union and a hilarious conversation between Salford fans on a bus back from the disaster which was the 2013 Challenge Cup Semi-Final which changed from how much money The RFL paid to get London in the semi to lamenting London's misfortune once another London fan got on. I have had more stick for being a southerner watching league in the north tha for being a brit in Australia.. Think about that

I have also had an RFL staffer absolutely gobsmacked outside the Halton Stadium before the Championship Play off final that anyone should come from Kent to watch that game or read the likes of Gary Hetherington express amazement that someone from Cornwall would buy Leeds Rinos merchandise. If they are not confident that the game may have an appeal outsidee its M62 confines what hope is there ?

5    The missed opportunity

1996 really was a mised opportunity and an oportunity that may not come again, with Soccer yet to peak, Cricket in the doldrums, Union still an amateur sport in nature there was an opportunity. I was there on the balmy evening in 1996 when London Broncos tooki on Wigan in front of 10,000 fans at The Valley. The future then looked bright for the game. The future now resembles an arctic night for the game or at least the growth of it.

I am emotinally committed to Promotion and Relegation but I am of the view that this now needs to be on basis of satisfying criteria. Rugby League never seems to learn either you have clubs promoted on the basis of being owned by a sugar daddy but with foundations in quicksand (I.e. Celtic Crusaders, Toronto) who collapse once the owner is financially challenged or you have a "Scutterton" a small town M62 club replacing another small town M62 club fishiong in the same pool as the other M62 clubs until the money runs out. And so the cycle continues...

Compare that with the Premiership Rugby attitude - Having had a number of failures London Welsh being the latest, The real reason Ealing Trailfinders were excluded from the Premiership because you would have had 4 clubs clustered within 12 miles of each other, that it's a club financed by Mike Gooley, the epitome of a Sugar Daddy, and has a average crowd of less than 1,000. As with any job interview, If I do not want you to have the job, I will find criteria to fail you. The same with PRL. If Doncaster or Cornish Pirates had won the championship they would have gone up. In future promotion to the big league will be on the basis of sound finances and geographical expansion, in having an area all to yourself.

Someone at LPL should write a book on the faiure of expansion call it "the reluctant expansionist"

Its a TV sport now for me predominately the NRL and select Super League games and I will go up north to a game when the fixture list permits but I am off now having spent long enough getting this off my chest so to speak.

 

 

 

I’d add (and this is a chicken and egg thing) an inability to create a competitive squad in the south and west (unless someone has shed load of money). 

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The sport for large parts is set up as a racket, and even if new clubs are introduced then they are often either hamstrung or just not supported in any meaningful way.

The sport is an old boys club, just not a very good one.

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I guess you have to ask what is the reason - perceived or otherwise- for expansion?

Are you trying to widen and grow the tv audience so the whole game benefits when rights are sold? I think the last auction went for less than in the past so there is no evidence of this yet.
 

Are you giving a handful of curious Cornish / Welsh / Midlanders the chance to “try a new game”?  Seems an expensive novelty for that. 
 

Is it a team for “northern expats”? I doubt you would turn your back on your favoured team for one of the losing expansion franchises. 
 

Some other reason? Discuss. 

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1 minute ago, stevecl said:

I guess you have to ask what is the reason - perceived or otherwise- for expansion?

Are you trying to widen and grow the tv audience so the whole game benefits when rights are sold? I think the last auction went for less than in the past so there is no evidence of this yet.
 

Are you giving a handful of curious Cornish / Welsh / Midlanders the chance to “try a new game”?  Seems an expensive novelty for that. 
 

Is it a team for “northern expats”? I doubt you would turn your back on your favoured team for one of the losing expansion franchises. 
 

Some other reason? Discuss. 

The reason for expansion is that someone or a group of people want to set a club up in an area away from the Heartlands. There’s no strategy for the game from its leaders, that’s the only way a club can be set up, and the RFL then offer them no help at all. 

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27 minutes ago, David Shepherd said:

Has expansion failed? 

We've never had such a wide geographical (UK) footprint.  

Is that true David? 

Because if that is true, then maybe we shouldn't be as negative, as you suggest. 

Is our footprint wider than ever? 

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25 minutes ago, David Shepherd said:

Has expansion failed? 

We've never had such a wide geographical (UK) footprint.  

Good point. 

Up until the 1980s, league was a firmly regional sport, not a national one, unlike all of its erstwhile rivals. 

There's now community and student rugby league in many more places, and - for now at least - some sort of professional presence outside the old areas. 

I can't think of another sport that's done better than that in the last 40 years. 

Sure, football's grown stronger everywhere, but it was already everywhere. 

I don't think cricket or onion have done any better. Their pro tiers are where the strength always was, and they're still struggling to crack new demographics, despite millions more thrown at it. 

The UK sports market is a mature one. Just about the only sucessful "expansion" I can think of in recent decades is cricket adding Durham as a first class county: and they went bust and needed a multi million bailout!

I think we do ok, and I've come to the conclusion that expanding our professional footprint isn't the right target anyway. 

 

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38 minutes ago, David Shepherd said:

Has expansion failed? 

We've never had such a wide geographical (UK) footprint.  

Our footprint now is less than it was 15-20 years ago.

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3 minutes ago, Dave T said:

Is that true David? 

Because if that is true, then maybe we shouldn't be as negative, as you suggest. 

Is our footprint wider than ever? 

Well, I think it probably is taking Cornwall into account. And of course we've got a team in Newcastle which we haven't always. 

463 miles from Newcastle to Penryn, says Google

However, that bald statistic doesn't tell the whole story in my view. We've started and lost teams from the periphery of the RL heartlands (Blackpool, Chorley, Runcorn, Scarborough), others have flattered to deceive (Doncaster, Sheffield) so we haven't been able to push out beyond the Northern heartlands effectively.

Then obviously we failed in Oxford, Kent, Hemel, Northampton, Gloucester etc.

It doesn't give confidence that Cornwall and West Wales will fare any better long term - although, granted, they exist right now

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2 minutes ago, paulwalker71 said:

Well, I think it probably is taking Cornwall into account. And of course we've got a team in Newcastle which we haven't always. 

463 miles from Newcastle to Penryn, says Google

However, that bald statistic doesn't tell the whole story in my view. We've started and lost teams from the periphery of the RL heartlands (Blackpool, Chorley, Runcorn, Scarborough), others have flattered to deceive (Doncaster, Sheffield) so we haven't been able to push out beyond the Northern heartlands effectively.

Then obviously we failed in Oxford, Kent, Hemel, Northampton, Gloucester etc.

It doesn't give confidence that Cornwall and West Wales will fare any better long term - although, granted, they exist right now

Yes, I alluded to that in my original post, we may have Cornwall, but are they just the new Kent? 

Having the odd random team in faraway places is probably the same as what was the case a few decades ago. 

I do think there is a good case for highlighting the expansion efforts in Europe though, although we used to be bigger in Russia for example. 

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6 hours ago, THE RED ROOSTER said:

First off this is not a thread about the French clubs, they are French Heartlands clubs so in no way expansion which is about Rugby League growing in a non-Rugby League area.

Secondly this is not about London Broncos, there are enough threads on them and they are, as a club, firmly in my rear view mirror.

1     It takes time to put down roots

Taking about the NFL international series Mike Fisher the beat writer for the Dallas Cowboys on Sports Illustrated said that the NFL in Europe was now reaping the benefits of a process that began 40 years ago and he is right, Channel 4 first broadcast the sport as a week delayed highlights show in 1982, I attended the first privatly organised NFL game between Minnisota Vikings and the St Louis Cardinals in 1983. There was a fallow period between 1997 to 2007 but since then with the playing of regaular season games outside the USA the game has grown and developed to the point whereby on Wednesday the dates will be announced for the five international series gamnes (3 in the Uk, 1 in Germany and 1 in Mexico) all of which will sell out. And this is without UK media coverage

 

All of this without UK media coverage?

You've literally just started the point by saying it begins when publicly owned but privately funded Channel 4 decided to make NFL part of its opening offer.

And ... no UK media coverage? I'm just imagining the live radio and TV BBC coverage of the Superb Owl, am I? Or that, for decades, NFL scores and stories have featured as part of the mainstream sporting landscape for the media in this country.

And that's before getting to the bizarre idea that NFL expansion in the 1980s meant five regular season games played abroad as against what they actually did ... which was create and fund a failed two continent league that collapsed into being a one continent, and then essentially one country, league before vanishing.

We may have many lessons to learn from the NFL. The idea that they have bravely pursued a single minded strategy to its inevitable triumph is not one of those lessons.

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Do 'expansion' clubs need more support? Yes

Has 'expansion' failed? No 

Do large numbers of people outside the heartlands love the game? Yes 

Do we need the constant debate about expansion failing? No

That's all I have to say on the matter 

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5 minutes ago, OriginalMrC said:

Do 'expansion' clubs need more support? Yes

Has 'expansion' failed? No 

Do large numbers of people outside the heartlands love the game? Yes 

Do we need the constant debate about expansion failing? No

That's all I have to say on the matter 

Expansion clubs definitely need more support, anyone who’s been part of setting a club up will know it’s almost non existent. 

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I digress i know, and i know its not expansion, but not allowing Manchester Rangers into league 1 with the plans they had was in my opinion a mistake, as is my opinion they would have improved year on year and with the Manchester name would have created some interest outside Manchester as well, IN MY OPINION

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13 minutes ago, gingerjon said:

Our footprint now is less than it was 15-20 years ago.

I was going to say this too. Saying it's grown over 40 years is fine but I think you could make a strong argument to say its declined over the last 20 or so.

Yes the university scene and the like is great but I'd argue this growth was 20+ years ago. As discussed on the student RL thread this has arguably declined in recent years.

It's a similar story in the community game, even in the heartlands. I think community expansion in non heartland areas is way off where we were 10-20 years ago when we seemed to have serious ambitions at growing the game at that level. Yes losing development officers is a big contributor to that but it's still a major decline none the less.

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6 minutes ago, Damien said:

I was going to say this too. Saying it's grown over 40 years is fine but I think you could make a strong argument to say its declined over the last 20 or so.

Yes the university scene and the like is great but I'd argue this growth was 20+ years ago. As discussed on the student RL thread this has arguably declined in recent years.

It's a similar story in the community game, even in the heartlands. I think community expansion in non heartland areas is way off where we were 10-20 years ago when we seemed to have serious ambitions at growing the game at that level. Yes losing development officers is a big contributor to that but it's still a major decline none the less.

All fair points.

However, I reckon if we'd not been obsessed with getting new pro and semi clubs into the SL/RFL divisions and instead just stuck with growing participation we'd be a lot closer to the high point you describe. 

I understand why the pro clubs are the focus - they founded the sport - but I've come to the conclusion it's meant we've focused on the wrong thing. 

Expanding into virgin territory at the pro/spectator level is almost impossible in my view, and isn't even necessary if we'd get other parts of the puzzle right. 

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9 minutes ago, Toby Chopra said:

All fair points.

However, I reckon if we'd not been obsessed with getting new pro and semi clubs into the SL/RFL divisions and instead just stuck with growing participation we'd be a lot closer to the high point you describe. 

I understand why the pro clubs are the focus - they founded the sport - but I've come to the conclusion it's meant we've focused on the wrong thing. 

Expanding into virgin territory at the pro/spectator level is almost impossible in my view, and isn't even necessary if we'd get other parts of the puzzle right. 

The RL Conference was massive. It covered pretty much all of England.

The either/or, when it came, wasn't between backing outpost professional clubs (because they received very little backing) or grassroots but between holding the line and continuing to fund development officers across the country ... or not doing that.

And we chose, as a sport, to not to do that.

We backed contraction. And so we contracted.

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Build a man a fire, and he'll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life. (Terry Pratchett)

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Think of Tony Clubb and Louis McCarthy-Scarsbrook both came through community clubs that i don't think no longer exist and both played at international level and there are others who have done the same. That there former clubs no longer exist seems criminal to me

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2 hours ago, OriginalMrC said:

Do 'expansion' clubs need more support? Yes

Has 'expansion' failed? No 

Do large numbers of people outside the heartlands love the game? Yes 

Do we need the constant debate about expansion failing? No

That's all I have to say on the matter 

Watching the death of RL in London, which I’m doing at the moment, suggests strongly to me that expansion has “failed”. 

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2 minutes ago, EssexRL said:

Watching the death of RL in London, which I’m doing at the moment, suggests strongly to me that expansion has “failed”. 

I don't like the term failed because in my opinion it has never been done properly for a long enough period of time to be deemed a failure.

When expansion has been funded properly with development officers, and let's face it even those times have been at a fraction of the levels pumped into sports like RU, or with well funded clubs things have generally gone well. The trouble is these things always seem fleeting in RL and we always seem one small step away from everything collapsing with nothing to show for it.

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Just now, EssexRL said:

Watching the death of RL in London, which I’m doing at the moment, suggests strongly to me that expansion has “failed”. 

The sport does comparatively very well as a regional game in the north of England.

Sadly there have been multiple decisions and policies that have meant it has stayed that way. Ironically the people who support these most will also bemoan why the sport doesn't get the recognition it deserves, its players are not paid enough, not enough money in the game, no knighthoods, minimal representation at SPOTY or on TV shows like Question of Sport or why the word Rugby refers to Union 99% of the time it is used in the media.

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Unfortunately there's not enough money in the game for the RFL to have any kind of expansion strategy so they just wait for someone to come to them with a plan for a new club and just leave them to it. 

Money needs to be invested into the infrastructure of RL in the area the new club is in over a long period of time. 

The RFL needs to work with Cornwall, WWR, Newcastle, the London clubs and Midlands and help them build a strong community game in the local and wider area and support them as a club in other areas to help them become a sustainable and successful club. 

Unfortunately like I said earlier the RFL don't have the money and the SL clubs definitely won't sacrifice any of theirs for this to happen so this thread will still be relevant in 10/20 years time

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